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On the hook

DJ/producer Jazze Pha's next caller could be his next hit

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"Holla!" bellows Jazze Pha. It's a mild Saturday evening, and Jazze's perched in the DJ booth, seated behind his mic with all the grandeur of a king on his throne. His one-word invocation invites his listeners, navigating their way between a day off and a night out, to call up and get their voices on the air. The phones light up.
"This is fun," Jazze says. "I like being excited, making people excited."

Seated opposite Jazze is Mami Chula, his co-host in the 6-10 p.m. slot on Atlanta hip-hop station, Hot 107.9.-FM In addition to fielding on-air calls, Jazze's juggling cell phone calls, two-way pages, even ordering dinner.

And, of course, he's doing the hook-up thing: "Jazze," says one caller. "I got a little guy that you got to see, man." Jazze scribbles down the caller's number. "Hey man, I got a CD I want you to get to Cash Money," says someone else. Jazze promises the caller, an aspiring rapper, to see him at the club later.

Jazze Pha responds to each caller enthusiastically, knowing that any of them could be the next big star. Most of his listeners know, after all, that DJ Jazze Pha is also one of the hottest hip-hop/R&B producers in the country, the man behind songs by artists like Too Short, Snoop Dogg, Nappy Roots, Jim Crow, Mystikal and Toni Braxton.

But the Memphis-born DJ/producer, who has lived in Atlanta for years, is ready for new challenges. Recently, Jazze teamed up with New Orleans' Cash Money label and lent his production skills to 500 Degreez, the new CD by the clique's youngest member, Lil Wayne. Now he's looking to branch out on the business end.

"I'm gonna start my own production company," he says. "Most people jump up and do a label. I want a production company with about four or five producers. I realize I gotta get more on the executive side and really be a factor in some of these young folks' careers because our opinion really, really counts."

Musically, Jazze wants to get into doing more R&B projects, and he's on the lookout for the right artist. "I'm about to do more hot R&B because that's just how I'm feelin' right now," he says. "I'm looking for a real, real hot solo male. I got a vision for him. I ain't found him yet but I got something. A lotta people just know me for the hip-hop stuff."

Those who know Jazze Pha well, however, know his R&B roots run deep. Born Phalon Alexander, Jazze is the son of the Bar-Kays' James Alexander -- and a former R&B singer himself, known in the early '90s as Phalon. Jazze spent his summers on the road with his dad, touring with the likes of Rick James and Parliament/Funkadelic.

"I was there, I was on tour. In the summer, if I had gotten good grades, I'd go on tour. That was a big thing for me," says Jazze. " I lived in California, my dad was in Memphis, that was like the highlight of my life."

Jazze says it's his Southern R&B foundation that seasons his rap sound. "People come to me because they want that fish and grits, that real South," he says. " It's authentic, it's real, it's in me. They're not just looking for songs or beats, they're looking for a vibe."

As he prepares for more work with Cash Money, Foxxy Brown and Lil Kim, Jazze is enjoying the success of his latest work, Trick Daddy's hit "In Da Wind" (featuring Cee-Lo and Big Boi). Meanwhile, he continues sharpening his R&B tools and prepares to get more business-minded about the music industry.

"Maybe now, he'll get folks outside the ATL to take notice," says Henry "Noonie" Lee, who signed Jazze to his Noontime Productions five years ago. "Now that he's working with Cash Money, that's really gonna put him where he needs to be. But he definitely hasn't received the recognition he deserves. I don't know what the problem is, but I know it's coming."

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